Everything You Wanted to Know About the OMNIMAX Theater but Didn't Want to Ask

Is there a difference between OMNIMAX® and IMAX®

Interior shot from inside the OMNIMAX Theater at the Saint Louis Science center

Pictures taken from inside the OMNIMAX Theater do not fully capture the gravity of the experience. You really have to see a true OMNIMAX Theater film for yourself to understand the effect of the domed screen.

This is a question we are often asked in our theater.  And the answer is yes…and no.  OMNIMAX is IMAX on a domed screen, and is also known as IMAX Dome®.  It is an IMAX product that was developed to provide an even more immersive experience than the traditional IMAX giant flat screen. It is accomplished by using a giant dome screen and an IMAX projector fitted with a special lens.  The special lens and giant dome screen come together to fill your entire field of vision.

The same IMAX film stock is used in OMNIMAX theaters and IMAX flat screen theaters.  However, sometimes a “dome version” of a film is released that is formatted a little differently for OMNIMAX theaters, in order to optimize the special shape of OMNIMAX screens. 

Why isn’t the OMNIMAX® Theater digital?  Isn’t digital better? 

With the advent of high quality digital video and its prevalence in today’s cinemas, visitors sometimes wonder about this when they see that we are not a digital theater.  The fact is, even with all the new technology that has come out in recent years, no digital projection system can yet equal the image quality of the OMNIMAX film system.  The resolution of IMAX® film is approximately three times the best digital resolution presently available.

In addition to resolution, there are inherent differences in format.  Current digital projectors and digital cameras are designed for the wide screen shape, or aspect ratio, that you are used to seeing used for Hollywood films.  The IMAX flat and dome image is a different shape that is wide, but also taller, for a more immersive effect. 

Since current digital projectors and cameras aren’t designed for IMAX’s greater screen height, difficulties are encountered trying to fill an entire IMAX flat or dome screen with a digitally projected or digitally captured image. The difficulties include maintaining sufficient brightness for the larger image area, and having to crop the sides of the image after making it tall enough to fill the IMAX screen.  With the massive size and dome shape of our screen, current digital technology just isn’t good enough yet.  There is, however, some exciting new technology in the works.

Okay, maybe this isn't everything you want to know about the OMNIMAX Theater. Leave a question in the comment section below and we might answer it in a future post!

Written by Dave, OMNIMAX Theater

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